April 10, 2017
Sparking Necessary Conversations
Indigenous Writes: A guide to First Nations, Metis and Inuit
issues in Canada belongs in every bookshelf on Turtle Island. As an
Indigenous person who was born and raised in the U.S., I knew the
headlines about Indigenous peoples in Canada. However, this book changed
all of that. Because Vowel writes informatively I was able to
understand policies and legislation at more than an introductory level.
Her experiences as an educator, lawyer, and activist come through in
this book. She is here for honesty, love, and truth.
Vowel is able
to describe succinctly the experiences of Indigenous peoples in the
Canadian nation state. The book is comprised of 31 essays divided into 5
parts: the terminology of relationships, culture and identity,
myth-busting, state violence, and land, learning, law, and treaties.
Each chapter can stand alone as individual pieces, but I guarantee you
will not want to stop reading. Also, Vowel provides a reference list at
the end of each chapter, allowing the reader to delve deeper into
specific issues. The amount of work Vowel put into the transparency of
this book shows her readers she has nothing to hide.
directly to her audience and the conversational tone makes it easy to
understand. She does not shy aware from counterpoints; she simply
addresses them and moves on. For example, she addresses cultural
appropriation by highlighting the reasons non-Indigenous folks give for
appropriation and asks them to stop acting like they care if they do
not. She continues with explanations of what is sacred to many
Indigenous folks on Turtle Island and suggests celebration instead of
appropriation. Also noteworthy is the sense of humor Vowel brings to
this piece. It feels like a conversation over great food at a gathering
rather than a heavy textbook trying to force you into submission.
understanding of settler colonialism was expanded during the reading of
this book. I understood settlers were here for Indigenous lands, but I
had not made the connections to the modernity of settler colonialism. I
had not connected it to residential schooling, the Indian Act, status
vs. non-status, or permits and passes. Vowel connected the systems and
has changed the way I read Indigenous issues because it is never just
one issue. My favorite part is Vowel’s use of her Indigenous language
throughout the book showcasing one of her strategies to fight
colonialism through her words.
Finally, even though Vowel is writing
about issues occurring in Canada, the experiences are transferable to
Indigenous peoples in the U.S. We have also have dealt and are dealing
with residential schooling, filthy drinking water, blood-quantum
politics, and self-determination just to name a few. This is a book for
more than educators, it is a book for communities and families.
Vowel’s work will spark the hard-to-have conversations that are
necessary in addressing settler colonialism.